The Philosophy of Mary Astell: An Early Modern Theory of Virtue by J. Broad OUP, 2015



The Philosophy of Mary Astell: An Early Modern Theory of Virtue

Jacqueline Broad

Mary Astell (1666–1731) is best known today as one of the earliest English feminists. This book sheds new light on her writings by interpreting her first and foremost as a moral philosopher—as someone committed to providing guidance on how best to live. The central claim of this work is that all the different strands of Astell’s thought—her epistemology, her metaphysics, her philosophy of the passions, her feminist vision, and her conservative political views—are best understood in light of her ethical objectives. To support that claim, this work examines Astell’s programme to bring about a moral transformation of character in her fellow women. This ethical programme draws on several key aspects of seventeenth-century philosophy, including Cartesian and Neoplatonist epistemologies, ontological and cosmological proofs for the existence of God, rationalist arguments for the soul’s immateriality, and theories about how to regulate the passions in accordance with reason. At the heart of Astell’s philosophical system lies a theory of virtue, including guidelines about how to cultivate generosity of character, a benevolent disposition towards others, and the virtue of moderation. This book explains the foundations of that moral theory, and then examines how it shapes and informs Astell’s response to male tyranny within marriage and to political tyranny in the state. It concludes with some reflections on the historiographical implications of writing Mary Astell back into the history of philosophy.


Print publication date: 2015 Print ISBN-13: 9780198716815
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198716815.001.0001

Keywords: Mary Astell, benevolence, existence of God, feminism, generosity, immateriality of the soul, moral theory, the passions, tyranny, virtue of moderation

Henry More and Nicolas Malebranche’s Critiques of Spinoza, Jasper Reid

Henry More and Nicolas Malebranche’s Critiques of Spinoza (pages 764–792) Jasper Reid, Article first published online: 6 MAR 2013 | DOI: 10.1111/ejop.12008,  (

Henry More and Nicolas Malebranche, each in his own way, drew a distinction between two kinds of extension, the one indivisible and the other divisible. Spinoza also drew a comparable distinction, explaining that, insofar as extended substance was conceived intellectually, it would be grasped as indivisible, whereas, when it was instead depicted in the imagination, it would be seen as divisible. But, whereas for Spinoza these were just different views on one and the same extended substance, More and Malebranche’s two kinds of extension were supposed to be really distinct from one another. Consequently, neither of them could identify Spinoza’s substance with both of his own non-identical kinds; and so they faced a choice over which one they would associate it with. The intriguing thing is that here they diverged. More felt that Spinoza’s substance was actually divisible, and consequently material. Malebranche felt that it was actually indivisible, and consequently ideal and divine. In each case, they felt that the other kind of extension—whichever that might be—was simply absent from Spinoza’s system. This article explores this divergence between More and Malebranche’s interpretations of Spinoza’s metaphysics, and it seeks an explanation for it in their own respective epistemologies.

European Journal of Philosophy, Volume 23, Issue 3, September 2015

NYU Conference on Issues in Modern Philosophy



2015 Conference on Issues in Modern Philosophy


The Twelfth NYU Conference on Issues in Modern Philosophy

New York University, November 6-7, 2015
Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South, Room 914

Registration is free but required by Tuesday, November 3, and is available here.

The New York University Department of Philosophy will host the twelfth in its series of conferences on issues in the history of modern philosophy on November 6 and 7, 2015. Each conference in the series examines the development of a central philosophical problem from early modern philosophy to the present, exploring the evolution of formulations of the problem and of approaches to resolving it. By examining the work of philosophers of the past both in historical context and in relation to contemporary philosophical thinking, the conferences allow philosophy’s past and present to illuminate one another.

Second session: Conway

Speaker Christia Mercer (Columbia University)
Commentator Jasper Reid (King’s College, London)


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